I used to dread autumn, ’50 shades of slush’, or whatever the acerbic British writer Julie Burchill called it. Sure, I could appreciate the big bravura show of red, gold and purple leaves, the ‘fireworks’ before winter. But I felt a strong undertow of dread. Autumn heralded the end of all I loved; the long days outdoors, the warmth, the leaves, the birds. And in its stead was only cold and bare sticks and mud.
When I got my life back in 2008 (after I recovered from MS), I found to my surprise that I could fall in love with every season. I saw nuances I missed before. This week, cycling through Central Park, I saw two men with binoculars peering at a very ordinary looking pine tree. ‘There are over 20 different birds in that tree’, one said. And sure enough when the tree exhaled out flew a beautiful array of tiny birds. It is migration season. Central Park hosts over 200 different feathered species at this time of year. Tonight I also learned that trees can see. That’s how they determine when to drop their leaves. I just assumed they felt the dip in temperature. But no, they actually see the days getting shorter. And they don’t just drop their leaves, they suck all the juice out from their leaves to store up as fuel for winter. In essence they hibernate like 19th century farmworkers did in France. The men would take to their beds for 7 months of the year to save on vital food and heat supplies. I used to think I should too. But now I am excited to see what will happen next. Will we get ice flows down the East River like last year?